The $500 million pumpkin spice market has spread into food, beauty products and more.
For the love of gourd.
The pumpkin spice latte (aka PSL) returns to Starbucks on Tuesday, and the 15th anniversary of the limited-edition drink laced with pumpkin puree and spices such as cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves has inspired a bumper crop of copycat coffees, cereals, beauty products, treats, yogurt and even rum spiked with the now-ubiquitous autumn flavor.
The pumpkin pandemonium is returning to the Seattle coffee chain earlier than its usual September launch. This year is the first time that Starbucks has served its PSL in August since 2014, when it began brewing on Aug. 26, Business Insider reports.
“Our launch date for the Pumpkin Spice Latte has varied in the past 15 years, but we know PSL is a beverage that Starbucks customers wait for with anticipation. We’re excited to give our fans the opportunity to get their fall fix a little earlier this year!” a Starbucks spokesperson told Moneyish. “Our customers tell us their first sip of PSL signals that fall has arrived – we love that it has become an iconic symbol of the season.”
Actually, rival Dunkin’ Donuts debuted its fall menu even earlier this year, serving its pumpkin-flavored coffees, doughnuts and muffins, as well as its own pumpkin-flavored K-Cups, on Monday. But analysts agree that the nation’s insatiable appetite for the Starbucks latte swirled with pumpkin pie flavors — it didn’t add actual pumpkin puree until 2015 — is what’s responsible for spawning the $500 million dollar pumpkin spice craze. In fact, Google Trends data show that searches for pumpkin spice have shown a sharp spike over the past week, with “Starbucks pumpkin spice latte release date 2018” as the most popular search term.
The java giant has sold more than 350 million PSLs since it was first introduced in 2003. And it also just dished new pumpkin spice cookie straws ($6.99 for 20) and pumpkin spice-flavored coffee K-Cup pods ($9.99 for 10) earlier this month.
Nielsen data show that dollar sales of pumpkin-flavored items reached a new high of $414 million in 2017, up from $286 million in 2013. And more than one in three U.S. consumers purchased something pumpkin-flavored in 2014, Nielsen noted. Even actual pumpkins are enjoying a bump in popularity; with shoppers hungering for more natural and whole foods, fresh pumpkin sales reached $121 million in the year ending July 1, 2017, up from $116 million in the previous period, according to Nielsen.
What makes this so profitable is that one taste isn’t enough. Food industry analysts at the NPD Group told Moneyish that pumpkin spice buyers are important because 29% of them have made more than one pumpkin spice purchase, and they visit retailers hawking the fall flavor twice as many times as non-pumpkin spice lovers — spending $3 more apiece on average, and racking up checks that are 10% higher on average than non-buyers.
And timing is everything. “Pumpkin Spice Lattes and pumpkin spice flavors are now a tradition, a fall ritual, with many consumers; a harbinger of fall like football, falling leaves, and sweaters,” Annie Roberts, vice president of foodservice at the NPD Group, told Moneyish. “It is clearly a winning strategy for coffee chains to continue to offer pumpkin spice lattes as a limited-time offer. Consumers anticipate their availability and know the drinks are only around for a short period of time, and this anticipation creates demand.”
There are signs that the seasonal squash is over-saturating the market, however, as the growth in pumpkin spice sales has slowed. While 2016 saw a 10% increase in pumpkin spice sales over the year before, that slowed to a 6% increase in 2017 over 2016, Nielsen reported. In fact, maple-flavored fall products are now giving pumpkin spice a run for its money, with some tastemakers dubbing the syrupy taste “the next wave of pumpkin spice” as some shoppers have soured on the PSL.
Pumpkin spice is gross. Fight me.
— VitaminC (@TakeUrVitC) August 17, 2018
unpopular opinion: pumpkin spice should be illegal until september
— laura (@laurabenjamin_) August 22, 2018
I love fall as much as the next person , but what I DONT love is the pumpkin spice apocalypse.
— kara ❁ (@forgetkaraa) August 22, 2018
But the demand for all-pumpkin everything is still strong — and it’s creeping into all kinds of other industries. Here are several other seasonal products looking to pumpkin-spice up your life.
- Besides Starbucks’ and Dunkin’ Donuts’ pumpkin-laced coffees, you can expect McDonald’s to start serving its McCafe Pumpkin Spice Latte soon, and 7-Eleven will feature pumpkin spice hot coffee, creamer, muffins and ice cream. Tazo Chai even has pumpkin spice-flavored tea ($3.29 at Target).
- And you can spike any of these PSLs with pumpkin spice rum. Captain Morgan’s Jack-O’-Blast ($9.99 to $39.99) spiced rum is back, and even comes in an orange pumpkin-shaped bottle. It was originally released in 2016, and has returned for the past three autumns to shake up your autumn and Halloween cocktails.
- Bulletproof, the brand that spurred the fat-for-fuel movement by putting high-quality, unsalted butter in coffee, has added pumpkin spice collagen protein bars ($34.95 for 12) to its lineup this fall. “Adding seasonal flavors like pumpkin spice was a result of consumer demand,” Bulletproof founder Dave Asprey told Moneyish. “Far too many pumpkin-flavored fall favorites contain large amounts of sugar or frankenfood chemicals that keep you foggy and tired. We wanted to offer a seasonal-inspired snack that consumers can enjoy, without getting a sugary food coma.”
- On the breakfast front, Kellogg’s has pumpkin spice-flavored Frosted Flakes, Frosted Mini Wheats and Special K cereals (generally $2.99 a box); General Mills has pumpkin spice Cheerios ($2.99); Quaker Oats has pumpkin spice oatmeal ($2.59 at Target); Bear Naked has pumpkin spice granola ($3.99 at Target); and there’s pumpkin pie Pop-Tarts ($3.07 at Target). And Thomas’ Pumpkin Spice English Muffins ($4.49) and Pumpkin Spice Bagels ($4.79) will hit stores on Sept. 10.
— Mike Kraft (@MKraft28) August 26, 2018
- The only thing better than the taste of pumpkin spice is the smell, so Native Natural Deodorant is bringing its limited-edition pumpkin spice latte scent back on Sept. 6, which it describes as “sweet and spicy with a hint of citrus” for $12.
- Auntie Anne’s has been rolling out pumpkin spice pretzel nuggets the last few fall seasons. The bite-sized pretzel pieces (which usually run around $3.79) rolled in pumpkin spices will be available Sept. 3 through Oct. 10.
- Treat House is dishing sticky goodies such as the Pumpkin Spice Rice Krispie Treat ($32 for 12), Pumpkin Spice (Cake) Pop ($21 for six) and the Pumpkin Spice Rice Krispie Treat Donut ($54 for 12).
- If you really want to get “nuts” about the trend, Blue Diamond has pumpkin spice almonds ($5.99 at Walmart), and Peanut Butter & Co.’s pumpkin spice peanut butter ($4.99) is already on shelves.
- Noosa’s whips up pumpkin spice yogurt ($2.59 at Fresh Direct) that includes actual pumpkin puree and pumpkin seeds.
- Godiva’s pumpkin spice chocolate truffles are filled with a pumpkin spice ganache. They’re $15 for five on Amazon, and already sold out on Godiva’s website.
- And yes, Simply Beyond has $11 pumpkin spice-flavored cooking spray.
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